"England in the East": Dilke's Historiography and the Imagining of India
It is idle to point to the tropics and say that free communities do not exist within those limits; the map of the world will show that freedom exists only in the homes of the English race....[yet] there is nothing...which should limit it in time or place: the only question that is open for debate is whether freedom--an admitted good--is a benefit which, if once conferred upon the inhabitants of the tropics, will be maintained by them....history teaches us to believe that the time will come when the Indians will be fit for freedom (Greater Britain, 555-56).
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British appetite for Empire was suffering from a severe case of indigestion. Recent losses and near misses to resistance movements in none too remote corners of the world had undermined what was seen as the 'inherent' stability of the realm; social Darwinism and race theories which were promulgated at the time raised doubts about what improvement could be wrought in nether regions; mercantilism and the maintenance of a satisfactory standard of living "at home" came to be seen as contradictory ends. In 1869, a new wave of imperialism was sparked in part by the publication of Dilke's Greater Britain. Essentially a travelogue, Charles Dilke's Greater Britain almost solely imparted a new grammar of domination.
England in the East is not the England that we know. Flousy Britannia, with her anchor and ship, becomes a mysterious Oriental despotism, ruling a sixth of the human race, nominally for the natives' own good, and certainly for no one else's...--scheming, annexing, out-maneuvering Russia, and sometimes, it is to be feared, out-lying Persia herself (Greater Britain, 550).
How was this possible? To what could Dilke appeal to energize the idea of Empire? Taking his views on India as typical of his ideology, I examine Dilke's defence of Empire in order to show how, by presenting a particular modality of repression which appealed to the logical, ethical and moral impulses in his readership, he rejuvenated Britain's view of itself as the only worthy Empire. I attempt to uncover how discourses of displacement and dislocation conflict, overlap and collude at various sites in the text and disclose a landscape and culture which are shown to be crying out for paternalistic albeit benevolent supervision. By referring to Homi Bhabha's work on the construction of authority, I hope to shed some light on an otherwise forgotten aspect of the (re)construction of Empire.